Jump directly to the content
The Westboro Baptist in All of UsK763 / Flickr
The Westboro Baptist in All of Us

The Westboro Baptist in All of Us


Feb 13 2013
Granddaughters who left offer a cautionary tale for zealots.

Maybe we expect those at Westboro and Megan Phelps-Roper to be social misfits or sociopaths. It may be surprising to discover that's not the case. In 2011, the Kansas City Star newspaper described Megan as intelligent, athletic, a lover of Harry Potter and Mumford & Sons, and as "peppy, goofy and, by all accounts, happy." But in the next breath reporter Dugan Arnett rounds out his 2011 description of Megan with: "Oh, and one other thing about Megan: She wants to make it perfectly clear that you and the rest of this filthy, perverted nation will be spending a long, fiery eternity burning in hell." This same peppy, goofy Megan is also the one who picketed the funerals while holding hateful signs. What a contrast.

Most of us wouldn't go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.

I observed this firsthand during the recent presidential election. Two of the godliest people I know were eviscerated—slandered by other believers for publicly sharing the reasons they weren't voting for Mitt Romney. Christian zealots went so far as to demand that these two be fired from their place of employment.

In an insightful post entitled, "Zealotry Today," Scot McKnight observes:

Zealotry is conscious zeal to be radically committed, so radically committed that one goes beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible…. Zealots…convince themselves that, even though the Bible does not say something, what they are saying is really what the Bible wanted after all.

My friend and New Testament scholar, Tim Gombis, says that such behavior is due to our underlying assumptions. In his post, "The Fundamentalist's Error" (an error made by many of us, not just fundamentalists) he explains, "The underlying assumption is that my thoughts are God's thoughts; my cause is God's cause. This divine alliance makes me exempt from obedience in order that I might bring about God's purposes."

There's no doubt that some of us evangelicals do have a penchant for bludgeoning those Christians unlike us; we zealously use godless means to accomplish what we believe to be God's ends. We fail to realize that God cares about the means we use just as much as he cares about the ends. Like Megan and those at Westboro, we too can be intelligent, peppy, goofy, all-in-all seemingly well-adjusted, while peacefully promulgating contempt for those who dare to question our stances.

Related Topics:Church; Conversion; Cults; Hell; Politics

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Lent in the Shadow of Cancer

Lent in the Shadow of Cancer

Three writers reflect on breast cancer, bodies, and resurrection hope.
Bring Back Blind Dating

Bring Back Blind Dating

Online matches put the pressure on us, while setups offer a sense of community support.
Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Sally Lloyd-Jones wrote a kids Bible so popular that they’re releasing an adult version.
We Don’t Age Out of Our Sexuality

We Don’t Age Out of Our Sexuality

Balancing love, desire, and the demands of midlife.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Q+A: The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible

Sally Lloyd-Jones wrote a kids Bible so popular that they’re releasing an adult version.

Twitter

  • How can you "die to self" when it already feels like you're dying? On going through Lent with cancer https://t.co/mPYSnrGk63
  • RT @hgscott: New Hampshire says: Give Us a King! https://t.co/fWlaBGnuuh
  • When 201cto dust you will return201d is a daily fear: Three poets with breast cancer reflect on #Lent https://t.co/mPYSnrGk63 #mustread
  • RT @sarahbessey: NEW POST: Why Lent Matters to Me (+ a few resources) https://t.co/Ld3ZxpjqPD with @tgcchelsea @ajsherrill @aaronieq and mo2026
  • RT @jasonevans: Interview w/ author of my fav' kids Bible. Why my fav'? Jesus isn't white. https://t.co/6nHvl0wdR8


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
The Westboro Baptist in All of Us